Avoid these popular scams this holiday season

Holiday ScamsThe holidays – a time for food, family and felicity. Although these are prone to induce a bit of stress from time to time, society seldom views the holidays as a source of vulnerability for identity and/or financial theft.


Don’t be caught off guard, dear member; if you aren’t vigilant, your CU accounts could be risk. As you embark on the 2015 holiday season, keep these four popular scams in mind…


1.   Black Friday / Cyber Monday Specials
  • You’ve spent hours scouring the Internet for a specific product, and you finally stumble upon a website that promises your item for 75 percent off its original retail price. Why wouldn’t you buy it?Unfortunately, fraudsters have been known to build precise replicas of popular retail websites with the specific purpose to mine your credit card information and steal your money. Before making any online purchases, ensure the site you are visiting is legitimate. This includes checking the website address for additional letters or characters. If you are suspicious of the web address, exit the page and locate the retailer’s official website before searching for your item again.
2.   Free Public Wi-Fi
  • Chances are you’ve seen the signs at local fast food chains, or maybe you’ve even hopped onto one at the mall. Despite where or when you’ve interacted with it, free wireless Internet used to connect smartphones, laptops and other devices to a live network all share one common risk: none of them are password protected. What that means is that any person, good or bad, could access that network. Likewise, a skilled hacker who occupies the same free Wi-Fi connection as you could use that network to intercept the information being transferred between your device and its ultimate online destination. This includes banking information, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and other pieces of data you access while you’re connected to the network. No, we’re not saying all public wireless Internet is harmful, but if you must log on to free Wi-Fi, stay away from any websites that require your personal data. In other words, keep to simple browsing and search inquiries.
3.   Free Vouchers or Gift Cards
  • In most cases, $1 of cash should be equally worth $1 of value on a gift card. Internet scammers love to give away free vouchers or reduced-price gift cards in exchange for enough personal information to raid your CU accounts and siphon away your money. Some scammers will even use your social media friends via “shared links” in your feed to lead you to bogus web pages designed with malicious intentions. Scammers may also lure you into this particular trap through email or online popup ads. Your best policy is to ignore all instances of free vouchers or discounted gift cards, unless such offers are obtained directly from the retailer’s official website.
4.   Phishing for your Wallet
  • Often arriving in the form of emails or other digital communication platforms, scammers love to deceitfully offer you things you want in exchange for your personal information. Items include movie tickets, highly sought electronics, pricey appliances and more. When avoiding this particular type of scam, the best defense is vigilance. Discard unsolicited messages and ignore popup ads proclaiming how much money you could save on elusive items. Also, above all else, never offer your credit card or Social Security number to a webpage that you did not intentionally navigate to. As long as youmaintain control of the situation, your accounts will remain safe.
SOURCE: Credit Union Times, 11/13/2015